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Sep 2011
I see this woman,

A small woman, asian, older maybe 60, gray hair at her temples.

She is wearing a tan short sleaved blouse, darker tan khaki’s to her knees and open toed sandals.

She is standing in the alley, by the utility pole with her hands cupped together below her *******.

I wonder about this woman.

I wonder if she has known pain, then I stop myself.  Of course she has known pain.  Then I wonder, is she loved?  I try to tell myself that everyone is loved by someone, but then I think, or rather I ask myself, is that true?  Is everyone loved?

In the alley by the utility pole, she looks around, her hands still cupped below her ******* and she begins to look around.  Side to side, to the north down the alley then to the south.  She then looks up into the hazy, warm sky.
She continues to stand there and I watch her from my third floor kitchen window.

I then think to myself that I need to think of this woman more often.  

I think of my own problems and punishments too often without ever thinking of the problems and punishments of others.

She has now folded her arms and is looking down at the ground, walking in small circles, as if she is contemplating something.  She has been lead to the alley by the utility pole by these thoughts.

I begin to think of the things that may have lead her here, right now, at this moment, right when I look out the window.  

Has she come out here after a heated argument in her own tongue (an assumption on my part, Chinese perhaps, Vietnamese.  This is my own idiocy locked in my own world.) with her partner, husband, love, significant other?  An argument over bills, money, a recipe perhaps.  

Then I think maybe she isn’t outside because of an argument at all.  Perhaps she needed some “me time.”  She needed a moment to breath air brought to her by the wind.  To take it in and have it heal her where she needed it to.

Then she drops her hands to her side and she begins to sob.  She leans against the utility pole and slowly slides down its splintery surface.  Her tan blouse snags on the pole but she continues to slide down the pole, her hands at her sides.

She is sitting on the ground, crying, needing someone to help her, needing the person to have caused this pain to cure it, to make it go away, to come to the alley, reach out with both of their hands and pull her up from the pain of the gravel on which she sits.

Then I thought, maybe they can’t.  

Maybe they can’t and that is why she is sitting in the alley by the utility pole, crying with her arms at her sides.  Perhaps she has lost someone she has loved and is regretful of the last thing she ever said to this person.

I recalled my earlier thought acknowledging that she has indeed known pain.  I was watching her experience it.  I was helpless to this woman in this moment.  If I were to ask her if she needed help I could be invading on what she thought was a private moment.  

She didn’t need the help of a strange man watching her from his third floor kitchen window.

She pulled a handkerchief from her right pocket and put it to her face, resting her elbow on her knee and looked down the alley again, still crying.

I felt bad.  I was standing watching this poor, and yet beautiful, woman cry in the alley thinking I couldn’t help her.

I was conflicted.

Do I go see if I can do something that will help ease her pain?  Will I make it worse if I infringe on this moment?

Something pushed me.  An impulse.  God’s whisper.

I put on my shoes and descended the three flights of stairs to aid this woman that I did not know.  What would I say?  Would she even understand my English words?  Could I understand her (assumed) Chinese words?  

Regardless, she needed help.

I opened the back door and stepped onto the sidewalk cautiously, as if it would give way and I would fall.  What am I going to say to this woman?

I looked up and my heart swelled, as did the tears in my eyes.  I saw what I had envisioned seconds before.  The person who had caused the pain came to her, both hands reaching for both of hers.  He reached for her and she reached back.

It was beautiful and I choked on my tears.

He lifted her up and they embraced saying words I did not understand but I thought that perhaps it may have been “Baby, I love you, I’m sorry.”

I didn’t want them to know I had witnessed this, this pain, this loss, those tears, the love and the embrace.  I walked quickly past in a direction that I did not need to go with only one more quick glance so that I could remember this love that I had seen.

It made me think of all of the love that I don’t see, the moments that I don’t take to look at someone from my third floor kitchen window.

The love in my own life that I take for granted sometimes and that made me sob.

I think of my own love and I want him close.  No words, just an embrace, like theirs,

in the alley by the utility pole.
For Ronald – because no matter what happens my love is real and I am hopelessly in love with it. I hold my love for you so close that I crush it, breaking open the sweetness of it and taking it into my soul.
Thomas R Parsons
Written by
Thomas R Parsons  Chicago
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